Clarification: It has come to my attention that some confusion has arisen regarding the nature of action taken by the School Finance Interim Committee at its Tuesday, September 27 meeting. No formal votes were taken, but at the request of Senator Sue Windels – Committee Chair – informal straw polls were taken to indicate the committee’s interest in taking future action on various ideas for legislation proposed by committee members. When Senator Windels introduced her “Referendum E” proposal, a straw poll of committee members showed four of the 10 objecting to taking future action. The significance of the legislators’ interest in promoting a tax increase beyond Referenda C and D remains.
DENVER – Amid a heated election contest to suspend taxpayer refunds, a leading Colorado Senate Democrat has moved forward in her plan to urge voters to adopt another tax increase to fund K-12 education.
At a Tuesday meeting, an Interim School Finance Committee composed of 10 state lawmakers agreed to proceed with crafting legislation recommending Colorado voters approve a new funding source to finance the state’s schools. Committee chair Senator Sue Windels (D – Arvada) proposed the idea, which she styled as “Referendum E.”
Windels said she would consider putting the measure on the statewide ballot in 2007.
Four committee members objected to forwarding Windels’ idea for immediate action, including Senator Ron Tupa (D – Boulder), who cited the current contentious election battle over Referenda C and D as poor timing to raise the spectre of more taxes.
“I could see the Jon Caldaras of the world saying, ‘Look, the government is out for more money,'” Tupa said. “My heart is with you, [Senator Windels], but my head just isn’t.”
On the ballot November 1, Referendum C asks voters to forfeit an estimated $3.7 billion in refunds under the Taxpayer’s Bill of Rights (TABOR) over the next five years and ratchets up the state government’s spending forever. Referendum D, dependent on the passage of C, would authorize the state to borrow an additional $2.1 billion for transportation and school construction projects, and police and fire employee pension bailouts.
In a handout given to committee members and guests, Senator Windels described her proposed Referendum E as “Everyone’s Effort for Equity and Excellence in Education.” The plan calls for increased funding for full-day kindergarten and preschool with no price tag yet specified.
Senator Nancy Spence (R – Centennial) proposed that the committee should “craft a trade-off” by also endorsing the removal of Amendment 23 from the State Constitution.
Windels rejected the idea, stating that she did not want “to put K-12 on the chopping block” before voters make a decision on Referenda C and D.
For more on Referenda C and D, visit TaxIncrease.org.
And I have it on good word that the op-ed to be released later this week in the Independence Institute‘s weekly newsletter will address the ever-timely issue of school funding in Colorado. You can sign up for the newsletter here.
Belated Update: Peter Blake of the Rocky Mountain News picked up the story and included it in his Saturday column.